Late night shoppers face car park snag

FESTIVE late night shopping in Ipswich nearly became an all-night event for nearly 20 people after they returned to a car park to find it had locked its doors.

FESTIVE late night shopping in Ipswich nearly became an all-night event for nearly 20 people after they returned to a car park to find it had locked its doors.

The NCP car park in Foundation Street closed at 8pm last night , leaving shoppers who had not returned in time unable to drive home – and their cars locked inside until this morning .

Although there were signs showing the closing time displayed in the car park, the shoppers said they assumed it would not shut until after the shops closed their doors during the traditional festive late night shopping.

Gary Chesterman, 36, had travelled from Weeley near Colchester with his wife Michelle, 23, to snap up some gifts for Christmas. They realised they were stranded at about 8pm.

He said: "More people are turning up all the time. We thought the car park would close at about 9pm. There are no really obvious signs and we thought as it was late night shopping it would be open.

"We are not from Ipswich and when you drive into the car park the signs are not something you immediately see. There are little ones here and they are really feeling the cold."

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Alison Fry, from Ipswich, and her daughter, Amy, 6, were among the crowd.

She said: "My daughter is seriously ill and she has been in and out of hospital at Addenbrooke's for the last two years.

"When she gets cold she has serious problems breathing as her windpipe closes up. We can't walk home and I work so it's going to be difficult getting my car in the morning."

Claire Humphrey, 18, and Jamie Heeney, 26, from Harwich, said they would not pay any fine that NCP may issue them because their car was left in the premises overnight.

Mr Heeney added: "Last year it was open until 9.30pm. We left the shops early to get down here but it was locked.

"You have to pay £10 for 24-hour parking. I'm not paying it and I'm going to make sure of it."

At 10pm Mr Chesterman said the police and fire brigade could not do anything to release the vehicles from the car park as the key holders in the area could not be traced.

Instead he and his wife were preparing to take a taxi to her father's house, in Manningtree, so they could stay there the night and return to pick up the car very early before work.

A spokesman for the Suffolk police last night said: "We have had a number of calls about this. Unfortunately from our perspective there is not a lot we can do.

"We have made lots of enquiries to get phone numbers but they are daytime numbers and there is no one there at this time of night. We have also been researching members of staff to get mobile numbers but there has been no response.

"It is something that needs to be taken up with the council. Maybe they need to link together to make sure the car parks are open when the shops close.

"We sent an officer down there but we cannot start breaking into car parks. It is an issue between NCP and their customers and we have tried to help as much as we can. Anyone who has been in a similar situation can understand how frustrating it must be."

NCP was unavailable for comment last night.

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